This is the first of a number of entries planned regarding Amazon's new Kindle 2 and, as such, will serve both as an introduction to the series and as the requisite dump of unboxing and first-use photos. The Kindle 2 is the first e-reader I've wanted to buy for numerous reasons, chief of which are an undying love for Amazon (first purchase in 1999, Amazon Prime member, bakes the UPS guy cookies, 10,000 products rated, etc.), and the necessity of support for Mac OS X, my preferred OS. While I've demo'd the Sony Readers at my local Borders, they never pushed me over the edge of purchasing, especially with the tacit agreement that I'd be unsupported. I've also never been a fan of "serious" reading on a phone or a PDA - it's a bit like reading a 2000 page children's book, with only a paragraph or two at most per viewport.
When the Kindle 2 was announced, a number of questions I had the first time around resurfaced. After some investigation, I found some answers, true, but mostly came away with more questions and a general need for more info. This series will attempt to address my own concerns in exacting detail, but also any further ones you may have: don't hesitate to leave a comment or drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can expect to find the following addressed in future entries:
- Just how good is the PDF support in Kindle 2? Is there experimental native support (as I've heard), or do I still need to either convert (paid), convert (unpaid + transfer myself), or convert (myself + transfer myself)? What sort of zooming controls do I have? How badly is the layout corrupted with pictures aligned alongside text?
- Similarly, what about image bundles? The Sony Readers have received kudos in the past for their comic reading capabilities: can I send over a .zip of images and get a bundled .azw file? Or should I convert to PDF first and view them natively (or via conversion, etc.)? Being able to read my Cerebus phone books or all the black and white editions of 2000 AD would be great, but would it even be plausible given the amount of space available?
- How restricting is the DRM? Can I backup my own files, regardless of the Amazon-supported online backup (I'm with Jason Scott when it comes to the cloud)? Can I remove the DRM, downgrading the .AZW files to regular old DRM-free Mobipocket files? What does a conversion to .AZW files provide for me, beside extra meta-data and forced DRM?
- How useful are the annotations? Are they stored on the Kindle in a way I can export or repurpose? Can I automate their scraping from the online backup? The ability to get my annotations out of the Kindle in easily accessible ways will make or break that feature for me.
- With over 240,000 titles available, why is it so hard to find something to read? Why isn't the recommendation data I've entered for physical product being used to recommend Kindle books? How do I add blogs that aren't officially offered by Amazon? Is one of the major selling points, that you can buy books anywhere at anytime, only useful for bestsellers, fiction, and book clubs?
Enough with teh words, bub, bring on teh pixels! (Note: as I received my non-review-copy Kindle a day late, there have already been a number of Unboxing posts made across the web. I'll try to focus more on screenshots, here, with the implication that all future posts will be screenshots only).
Cardboard box (outside); cardboard box (inside); inner sleeve (outside); included docs.
Cardboard box (inside) on the left; inner sleeve (outside) on the right.
Outta-the-box E Ink starting screen (left); initial bootup progress bar (right).
Of special importance to technical publishers is font styles, especially a monospaced font that can be used for code listings (recently added in firmware version 1.2). Here, using High Performance MySQL, 2nd Edition (.mobi) as an example, we can see monospaced used inline (on the left, first paragraph), and O'Reilly's stylistic conventions (on the right, indicating bold is not yet supported).
On the left, tables are supported. On the right, code blocks aren't monospaced (compared to the PDF display in the bottom right), but command inputs are. (These screens from the .mobi version of High Performance MySQL, 2nd Edition.)